Although perhaps not as well known as some other minerals, Chloride is nevertheless member of the major mineral family. Chloride is better known as the other half of Sodium Chloride or table salt and it’s importance inside the body is invaluable.
Working along with potassium and sodium, the chloride mineral is another member of the electrolyte family. This particular electrolyte is found mainly in the body fluids surrounding cells. Its major role is to work with the other electrolyte family members to control the flow of body fluids in the veins as well as throughout the body, and maintain the proper electrolyte balance.
The Chloride mineral also works to help reduce excess acid levels. The internal body environment prefers as close to a neutral state as possible. When the pH balance is upset, as is the case when too much acid enters the body, the body works quickly to attempt to remedy this situation. Chlorides act as neutralizing agents and their work helps to bring the acid and alkaline level back into balance.
Inside the stomach, chloride is found in the form of hydrochloric acid. Hydrochloric acid is an important component of the digestive process. It helps break foods down, so they can be properly absorbed by the small intestines. In the liver, chloride may also help in the process of removing waste.
Sodium chloride, more commonly referred to as table salt, is present in practically every food. Some foods contain much higher levels than others. Foods like chips, pretzels, French fries, tomato-based sauces, processed meats, canned meats and fish, olives, preserved meat, animal liver, canned vegetables and peanut butter contain the most. Chloride sources are especially abundant in processed foods because of the high levels of preservatives needed to keep these foods fresh.
Since chloride is so abundant in the daily diet it is not necessary to recommend a daily allowance. Nonetheless, 750 mg/day is the generally accepted RDA for this mineral. Infants should get at least 0.5 to 1 gram of chloride each day.
Chloride deficiency although rare can occur in certain circumstances. When the body gets too much salt it makes that fact known by retaining water. But over time, too much salt can lead to hypertension and may elevate the blood pressure. A chloride deficiency can be dangerous as well. In healthy individuals, such a deficiency does not usually occur. However, serious bouts of diarrhea or vomiting, or excessive use of diuretics, or excessive fluid loss due to sweat can all create a deficiency of this mineral.
Low blood pressure and a general feeling of weakness are two symptoms of a chloride deficiency. When chloride mineral levels drop the body usually experiences a simultaneous loss of potassium via the urine. A condition known as alkalosis can develop if acid levels in the body drop too low. This is a dangerous condition that causes the blood pH to become elevated.
Combined with a significant loss of potassium, this condition becomes hypokalemic metabolic alkalosis and its symptoms cause the affected person to lose the ability to control muscle function. This leads to problems with breathing and swallowing, and if not addressed, may lead to death.